A Near Brush With Death – While Painting Health By Numbers?
A friend took me to lunch this week – there IS such a thing as a free one. Most enjoyable. He’d just returned from his regular blood test and before long our conversation turned to health or should I say the ‘test results’ of my lunch companion – he sure knows his numbers, but maybe not his onions? It seems as if numbers could hold a secret, but what if, in blissful isolation, there are lies, darned lies, statistics and…‘numbers’.
Enough to make your blood boil
Table chat soon turned to blood pressure ‘numbers’ – his may have spiked a bit when I mentioned my BP ‘number’ was 100/60. His face relaying a message of a racing pulse, backed up by his concerned words of “that’s unusually low”. Meanwhile, I’m more taken with the miles I can walk effortlessly, as defined by my Functional Medicine ‘score’ – while pretty much not caring what ‘range man’ has deemed to be ‘healthy’. But then basing Wellness on hanging around the kitchen cabinet has always seemed more appealing and logical than dashing to the bathroom cabinet.
Weigh Too High
To put my blood pressure in context, I was with another friend a few weeks back. I casually asked him how he was, “better than a few weeks ago” came his reply, as he’d just come out of hospital. He dropped in that his blood pressure was 280/170. I nearly fell off my chair but as I was standing up at the time, that proved difficult. I didn’t realise you could GET such numbers, but maybe he had inadvertently worked ‘hard’ at them over 10,000 to 15,000 days?
When Your Number’s Up
So, what are the big ‘health’ numbers in the average human body? Well, for starters, mains and puddings there are: 100 trillion cells (round numbers of course) but more precisely we have 22 internal organs. We’ve 200 muscles controlled by the brain (except the tongue of course, when you stand up to give the proud Father’s speech at your Daughter’s wedding). We start off, when we pop out naked into the World with 350 bones, but we only have 206 bones when we’re grown up – silent body snatchers are like that. The heart beats around 35 million times per year, while the blood it pumps is filtered 300 times – that oxygenated blood being 7% of our body weight. Our body also contains 200,000 proteins but only 23,000 genes. Genetics are clearly over-rated compared with behaviour triggering, uniquely shaped proteins – each having a lock and key to help protect us, unasked, from our lifestyle harms.
Medicine Man – What If He Speaks With Forked Tongue?
It’s a big leap to think that a modern Medicine Man can handle such complexity and interaction – it doesn’t take an Einstein to question if mathematics can remotely keep up with biology. Medicine Man will medicate away, but if he meditated away he’d ask if by just focussing on just one organ in Med School training, he had kind of skipped over the deep dive into the other 21. Confirmation bias is a lot like that, giving you only the answers you seek. Any pill that you ‘pop’, will act on over 100 metabolic pathways, while Pete the Prescriber is looking for just one reaction to treat one disease. His is a game of one issue, but affecting complex tissue.
Home on The Range
Eyes, for humans, are best if they come in a range. That range, of course, being between one and three. There’s a different buzz around a fly – their ideal eye range number being between four and six, that being a larger pair of two compound eyes and a smaller triangular set of three eyes smack bang in the middle of their forehead. So, everything fits, in an ‘ideal range’ but a range within which we can manage. Most of us are short compared with the typical Dutchman – their height range being much nearer two metres than most ‘tribes’. But hopefully the Medicine Man won’t start dishing out growth hormone pills, to all the non Dutch anytime soon. Height is like that, falling within a range and one you should be at home on. A problem with medicine is that it’s in danger of numbers based, simple Simon solutions – with upwards only this and downwards only that.
Meds to The Max
Suppressive medicine doesn’t seem to ration the numbers that truly harm Wellness and that’s multiple, complex, interacting, chemically derived modern medicines. A London Cardiologist I met seems to be holding the winning Bingo ticket at 38 meds taken by one patient who was sent to him, via a GP friend – “let’s start all over again” might be a healthier rallying call. But to start over again would be more than tricky, as with medicines, nothing is so easy as simply stopping – the chemical cocktail has hooks and learned dependencies that you have unwittingly stumbled into. Or to quote the classic Eagles song, Hotel California, when sampling multiple medicines “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”. Talking of numbers, that song soared to Number 1 in the Billboard Charts of 1977.
Time Ticks By… Five Minutes To Midnight
Over history, many of us were promised a life expectancy of three score years and ten. Better still, that we should use them well. Including, “don’t spend more than five minutes per day in the sun”, as I was once told. Really? Well, that’s what a friend said and with him looking, well pasty, but not well, WELL. Off to take his meds, in the dark – no doubt. Somewhat sad, given our sunlight derived Vitamin D supporting our cholesterol repair hormones. Nowadays, we hope for 80 to 90 healthy years – but throw in a dose or three of ‘meds’ and all bets are often off. Meanwhile Nature never has to put a warning label, or any vital numbers, onto her edible packaging.
Easily Skittled – When ‘Foodstuffs’ are a Number
The aim in skittles is to knock down the nine pins with your ball. The game of English West Country origin, is a healthy way to spend an hour or two – but in some inflationary countries, ten pin bowling is preferred. However, to some, Skittles is not bowling by numbers, but eating by them. The number of Skittles has a quite different meaning – them being brightly coloured sweets. In a 3.5oz box of Skittles there are (apparently) 97 of the little ‘tasties’ – Youtube videos don’t lie while confirming: 18 yellow, 20 orange, 21 green, 21 purple and 17 red ones. With 200 million Skittle sweets made each day in the US, their numbers make them the 2nd most popular sweet after Starburst’s – though their main ingredient of Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil (HPKO) is banned in a number of US restaurants. But for that we just don’t have the numbers. Though the HPKO doesn’t sound such a knockout idea, it only being in there to bind ingredients together and to stop them sticking to the manufacturing machinery.
Other named ingredients include: Red 40 lake, Yellow 5, and Blue 2 lake. Apparently, the term ‘lake’ is smoke & mirrors shorthand for aluminium hydroxide ingredients… Though just what aluminium is ever doing in the human body – well go ask your Toxicologist for any safety evidence. That ‘lake’ certainly doesn’t sound like something we should be swimming in either – but we’re certainly dyeing to know more about it before our number is finally up.